Describing this season as “up-and-down” would be an understatement, but we are excited and eager for this new season (postseason) and the opportunities and challenges it presents. First up, ourselves. Wait, what? Ourselves? I thought the Vols played Arkansas? Yeah, we do. But before we can lace ‘em up and go compete against Arkansas, we must make sure our minds are in the right place. There is no time to worry about the stakes we’replaying for, personal stats or some Georgia Dome UT curse people brought up yesterday. As Coach Pearl says, the only thing all of us–coaches included–can worry about is what we can control.
For the most part, our effort has been good enough to win the last few weeks, but our execution and decision-making has been inefficient. We can control that. In years past, our team has been structured in a way that has enabled us to play an up-tempo and high-possession style of play. Thus we have been able to overcome more bad shots and turnovers. However, because this year’s team has played a slower, grind-it-out tempo, a few bad shots, unforced turnovers or empty possessions throughout the game have often times been the differencebetween a win or loss for us. In football terms, we are a really good defensive team, but unfortunately we’regetting beat because it’s impossible to ask your offense to continually overcome Eric Berry pick-sixes, or Vandy-esque three-and-outs.
Therefore, despite our limited time on the court, we have done a substantial amount of work on our continuity offense. Coach Pearl went as far as demanding our players score out of this base offense or else they had to run 10 suicides. I’m happy to say, we only had to run once. He hasn’t done this since the preseason, and you couldsee a different urgency in our players as they attacked the basket. Defensively we worked primarily on shoring up our middle-ballscreen defense and rebounding. “Two hands,” “stunt” and communicate must have been yelled by our coaching staff 500 times throughout practice.
As each practice went on, we began working more and more on instilling our game plan into our players’ heads. Rewatching that tape, there are many things that we must change in order to get this W, and hopefully the adjustments we are instilling will pay off. The obvious key to their team is Rotnei Clark. A great shooter with a great motor, his activity and skill package will take the focus of their team. The scary part is, they have another very good player in Marshawn Powell and very intense, ball-pressuring guards that caused havoc against us earlier this year. We will have to play really, really well to beat them, but we all know we are capable of doing just that. Will we? We are working to do so, but at this point I’m praying for it as much as you are. Game 1 of our new season is here. Hopefully this year we’ll take this SEC Tournament and the Georgia Dome by storm!